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02/11/2014 08:38 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2014

Shark Cannibalism Reported In Australia's Controversial Cull Program

Jeff Rotman via Getty Images

Australia's controversial shark culling program is facing yet another set back as sharks caught in the baited drumlines are reportedly being attacked and bitten by even larger sharks.

The drumlines have been set up a kilometer (0.6 miles) from shore and are intended to catch bull, tiger and great white sharks larger than 3 meters, or roughly 10 feet. According to the plan, the captured sharks are then "humanely destroyed" further out at sea by contracted fishermen in order to reduce the number of shark attacks in heavily populated areas.

But things don't always go according to plan.

As many critics of the cull program warned, the baited drumlines may be attracting sharks closer to shore than they might otherwise venture. While the scent of the bait used on the lines can only be detected by sharks a few hundred meters away, blood and stress signals emitted by sharks already caught on the lines may attract other sharks that are even further.

According to shark expert Hugh Edwards, "Sharks can pick up body vibrations and blood from kilometers away."

A spokesman for the Department of Premier and Cabinet confirmed that signs of shark cannibalism had been reported, but did not specify in how many incidents.

Almost 40 sharks are thought to have been caught since the program's inception in January, but the state government has not officially revealed the number.

In the past three years, Western Australia has seen seven people killed by shark attacks.

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